As National Nutrition Month, March is the perfect opportunity to evaluate eating habits to make sure you are getting all the necessary nutrients to stay healthy. But what do nutrition and nutrients really mean? How do you know if you are eating the right amount of nutrients? What nutrients should you be keeping track of?
Here are some key definitions and explanations that give a well-rounded view of what nutrition really means.
Nutrition is defined as “the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth.” In other words, this means eating a diet that is full of nutrients needed to prevent disease, maintain a healthy weight, support bone density, and other necessary body functions. A nutrient is “a substance that provides nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life.” Nutrients are found within food, and they ensure good nutrition.
With the key terms clarified, what are some nutrients that are important to the body and why? Where can they be found?
Nutrients are split into two categories: micronutrients and macronutrients.
Macronutrients are the basic food groups we all know and can easily assess such as protein, water, fat and carbohydrate. However, micronutrients are more difficult to detect. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that can be found within food. Important micronutrients include Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Iron and B vitamins.
Vitamin D helps strengthen bones, and can be obtained by eating eggs and dairy products, as well as exposure to sunlight.
Vitamin C helps boost your immune system to help fight off illness. It can be found in citrus fruits such as oranges, peppers, and green vegetables.
Iron is a nutrient that helps deliver oxygen to the body. Eating fish, red meat and other poultry helps ensure iron levels are where they need to be to keep you healthy. Iron is also found vegetarian options like beans, spinach, and oatmeal, but it is harder for the body to absorb than when consumed from meat.
The final essential vitamins are B vitamins. They help the body break down and utilize energy. B vitamins can be found in poultry and lean meats, beans, milk, and eggs.
Pop Quiz: Are you eating lean protein? Are you spending enough time in the sun? Are you eating a large amount of fruits and vegetables? If the answer to these questions is yes, you are most likely eating the right amount of nutrients.
If you are unsure, write down what you have eaten in the last week. See if there are areas where you can include vitamin-rich food. And of course, make a wellness appointment and consult your primary care physician about your deficiencies and what vitamins and nutrients you should include in your diet.
Make the most of this National Nutrition Month by examining your diet and making dietary changes to ensure a nutritious lifestyle. You’ll be happy you did in the long run!